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Alexa, stop following me! Amazon's got big plans for the future of home tech

Alexa, stop following me! Amazon's got big plans for the future of home tech

Amazon wants to be your single shopping source for anything you'll ever need, from shoe racks to tomatoes. It also wants to move in with you with its line of Echo smart speakers, Ring video doorbells and other security equipment, along with its Eero home Wi-Fi systems.

The convenience of immersing yourself into one company's ecosystem might seem like a great way to streamline certain aspects of life, but there are serious drawbacks when it comes to your privacy. Knowing your habits and day-to-day activities means mega corporations like Amazon and social media platforms can get to know you better than you know yourself.

We often get startling reminders of that fact, such as the revelation a few months ago that potentially thousands of Amazon employees listen to people's interactions with Alexa. If you think Alexa is up in your business now, just wait until you see what Amazon's working on next.

The robots are coming

Robots have been promised in books, TV shows and movies about the future for a long time, and they're finally real - even though they don't really resemble their sci-fi counterparts. Once the ball was rolling, it was basically no time before companies like Amazon and Walmart began adding robots to their workforce. But it's been a different story when it comes to the take-home variety.

A lot of startups have developed expensive novelty robots for the home, but they lacked general practicality and some of those ventures have since gone bust when they generated very little interest. Amazon's certainly not at risk of going under, and you might recall that a little over a year ago we learned they were working on their own version of home robots.

 

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Bloomberg was first to report those efforts last year and just this week, new details about the Alexa-bot (no, that's not what they're really calling it) have come to light. It's codenamed Vesta and it's being developed at a research facility in Sunnyvale, California known as Amazon Lab126. Kind of has a shadowy Area 51 ring to it, don't you think?

Alexa could be your new shadow

Bloomberg's latest report says work is still very much continuing on Amazon's home robot efforts. According to sources in the story, the current Vesta prototype is roughly waist-high, responds to voice commands (presumedly through Alexa) and wanders around on wheels using built-in cameras equipped with computer vision.

Not much else is known about its actual purpose, but one can assume it's to fill in those Alexa-free zones in your home. As in, why put an Echo Dot in every room when you can have robo-Alexa follow you around like a cute, lost, data-collecting puppy?

So it's a no-brainer that there are all kinds of implications regarding your data privacy, even to the point it can involve your kids. We already know Alexa listens to more than just your commands. Not just that, but recordings and transcripts are kept indefinitely unless you manually intervene.

On that note, click or tap here to learn how to protect your privacy with Amazon including step-by-step instructions on deleting your Alexa files. Amazon has also rolled out a feature where you can delete some history using only your voice.

Amazon's upcoming devices

Contrary to previous speculation, it doesn't look like we'll get our very own Amazon robot with one-day Prime delivery this year. Since it's still being described as a "prototype," there's virtually no chance they'd be ready for primetime when Amazon typically rolls out new products during an annual September event.

What we have a better chance of seeing this year is a beefed-up Echo smart speaker rumored to have sound quality rivaling Sonos and Apple's HomePod. Other tech they could announce hasn't leaked yet, but keep in mind that last year Amazon brought out more than a dozen Alexa-enabled gadgets alone - including a microwave.

On second thought, let's forget about the Vesta robot prototype. Slap wheels on an Alexa-enabled microwave that'll deliver nachos to the couch and we'll talk.

When smart devices watch you, what do they do with the data?

For Amazon Echo and other smart speakers to work, the microphone has to hear its "wake phrase." But as we continue to find out, they hear a lot more than that. And all that data gets stored, edited, manipulated and even shared. What else is it used for?

Click or tap here to find out the implications and what you can do about it

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Source: Bloomberg
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